I immediately took to Wylie when he appeared on CMT (when it was available), as he was the only country singer I knew who wore glasses. He also made great traditionally inspired country music, from his first release back in 1992 to Song of the Horse which is his 21st. Wylie is a prolific writer and his songs have graced his albums since day one. He is also a distinctive and recognisable singer whose voice has matured and grown through the years and is an immediately comfortable presence.
Wylie’s band, the Wild West, have changed personnel through the years, but have always provided an appropriate backing for him. Wylie Gustafson balances his music with his ranch work and horses and it gives his songs an authenticity that few others can offer. He brings a genuine western feel to his music that manages to avoid the corniness that is sometimes inherent with some cowboy music. This album is a heartfelt tribute to the horse and its place in the life of the working cowboy and ranch hand. The 21 songs on the album all feature that noble animal as a central part of the songs. Yet that specific subject matter in no way distracts from the enjoyment of the album, the songs could easily have been love songs (they are in themselves - but you know what I mean), or any of the other staples of good country music.
Gustafson has had a hand in writing all but one of the songs on the album (though I thought that Goodbye Old Paint was an older song) and manages to make each sound unique by ringing the changes in the way they are played and the moods they evoke. Some have a south of the border feel, others are more acoustic in tone, while some are more fiddle and lap steel orientated. Other songs rock and what appears to be a jaws harp and an electric sitar even make an appearance. All highlight the skill and understanding of the current Wild West band’s playing ability. All in all the album passes its hour plus running time without ever feeling that it is over-extending its welcome.
There are some real stand out songs like the two Paul Zarzyski co-writes; A Pony Called Love and Saddle Broncs and Sagebrush, but there is much to admire here and different songs will grow in favour depending on repeated listening and your mood. Although this is an album rooted in traditional country, Wylie never makes the music seem stuck in the past; rather, like its subject matter, Song of the Horse is a living, breathing and enduring entity. Song of the Horse is among the best of the albums that Wylie and his Wild West have produced and it is a testament to music that is made for all the right reasons.